Dale Jarrett to hit the 500 mark at Darlington

Dale Jarrett to hit the 500 mark at Darlington

Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, will be making the 500th start of his NASCAR Winston Cup career at one of the sport's most historic tracks - Darlington Raceway. There might not be any other track on the circuit that has provided...

Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, will be making the 500th start of his NASCAR Winston Cup career at one of the sport's most historic tracks - Darlington Raceway. There might not be any other track on the circuit that has provided more memorable moments for Jarrett, who has won the spring race at Darlington three times. He recounted some of the good and bad times at the famed egg-shaped oval as part of This Week in Ford Racing.

DALE JARRETT - No. 88 UPS Taurus:

Dale Jarrett.
Photo by Autostock.

IT'S YOUR 500TH START AND YOU'LL BE CELEBRATING AT ONE OF NASCAR'S MOST STORIED PLACES. "It's really my 500th start? Wow, my winning percentage isn't very good when you look at it that way (laughing). It's hard to believe it's been 500 races. There are a lot of them I can remember and a lot of them I can forget, too. Yeah, it is a pretty special place. There are a lot of things that have taken place there, whether it was my career or my dad's career. I remember being there when he won the Southern 500 and basically clinched the championship in 1965, but, aside from that, I've been very fortunate as a driver to do well there. I think a lot of that is due to the help I got from people like Harry Gant. I just asked him one day how you get around that place when I was in the Busch Series and he explained how he did it. I watched David Pearson, and then being able to compete against him in the Busch Series there, and then watching Dale Earnhardt helped, too. Those are three different styles, but I picked up a little bit from each of them and you utilize each of those styles at different points in probably every race. It's just a fun race track. The challenge is unbelievable. I mean, you can't go out and build tracks like that anymore. Apparently you can't because nobody does, but it's just so much fun. It's as hard of an afternoon as you'll have as a driver, but it's very gratifying and rewarding if you can be fortunate enough to stay off of the wall and do well. The two ends are so totally different. Trying to get a car setup for both is almost impossible, so the driver really has to do his part."

Sept. 6, 1965 - Ned Jarrett Wins Southern 500 (Dale Jarrett is 8 years old)

WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT THAT DAY? "After Victory Lane and going back home to Camden, which is just down the road, I remember cars and people were everywhere when we pulled up to our house. I think the whole town of Camden was there, but it made me realize right then that what my dad did was a little bit special and different. That was pretty neat to see everybody rally around him. The operation they had in Camden was something everybody knew about and had probably been by to see it, so it was nice to see everyone come out and show their support."

Sept. 1, 1996 - Jarrett Goes for the Winston Million in the Southern 500

THERE WAS A LOT OF HYPE FOR THAT RACE. "That really was a lot of fun. We went and tested and we had a great test. I think we sat on the pole for the race and were leading when someone dropped some oil in what is know today as turn one, but at that time was turn three, and we got into the wall. It was unfortunate because you're sitting there with a chance to win a million dollars and we never had that opportunity before. Obviously, it was a big deal and everything was going as planned. Even though it was early in the race, we knew that we had a good car and a good chance and that took it right away from us. But it was still a special time and one that I don't think I'll ever forget. That just goes to show you how quickly things can happen there and take you right out of it."

March 23, 1997 - Jarrett Wins for the First Time at Darlington

YOU BOUNCED BACK THE NEXT TIME AND WON FOR THE FIRST TIME. "That was a big thing because you know how difficult that race track is for 400 or 500 miles. When you look at the names that have done well there and know that you can put yourself in that group of people that have won races there is pretty special. We had a great car and it was just fun racing. With the challenge that it presents, you know as a driver that you've had a big part in it. Darlington isn't like some other places. It's special to win anywhere, but extremely special when you do there."

Sept. 5, 1999 - Jarrett Spins in Qualifying; Race Strategy Backfires

YOU WENT ON TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP IN '99, BUT WAS THAT DARLINGTON WEEKEND AT THE SOUTHERN 500 THE MOST STRESSFUL FOR YOU DURING THE FINALSTRETCH? "Yeah, it got close. I think Bristol was the week before that and we kind of had a two-week period that was kind of rough. I actually wrecked twice at Bristol and it was like, 'We can't throw this away now because we've worked so hard.' I had a really good car at Darlington and why I was trying to sit on the pole I don't really know. I didn't have to do that. I could have started in the top five without really pressing it, but I spun out in three and four. That wasn't a big deal, but pitting on the backstretch was a big deal at that time. Still, we were able to eventually work ourselves into the top 10 and it looked like it was gonna be a good day, but then we made the decision to come in and pit. We gambled that it wouldn't rain and we went from 12th to a 16th-place finish, but we were fortunate because Bobby Labonte ended up right around where we did (19th) and, points-wise, it didn't turn out to be too bad. It could have been a disaster, but the team worked hard and the pit crew did a great job that day of trying to make sure we got in and out as quick as we could. We were all in agreement in our choice to make that pit stop and it's just a gamble that you take. It didn't work, but thank goodness we can look back on it and laugh about it now because it turned out not to hurt us."

April 29, 1984 - Jarrett Makes First NASCAR Winston Cup Start

DO YOU REMEMBER THAT FIRST START? "Yeah, I remember the first start. It was actually back in 1984. I started the race at Martinsville, Virginia, for Emanuel Zervakis and had a great day. I got a little driving lesson from my friend, Dale Earnhardt, and we had a lot of fun that day. It was quite an experience for me."

April, 1977 - Jarrett Makes Stock Car Debut at Hickory Speedway

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE VERY FIRST TIME YOU GOT BEHIND THE WHEEL AND DROVE A RACE CAR? "I remember I had been able to practice twice before, but we always had problems and on the night of the race I actually got there late. When I drove that night I started in the rear and finished ninth, but had more fun than I thought was possible. Bobby Isaac went to my dad and said, 'I thought you said Dale was driving tonight.' I guess going from 24th to ninth was pretty impressive in 25 laps. I didn't look at it that way because I had so much fun, but it was nice to have someone like that who could watch a race and recognize what could be down the road. He was a big help in my career."

WAS THAT YOUR DEFINING MOMENT AS FAR AS BECOMING A RACER? "Yeah, it was that moment exactly. I always thought that it would be fun. I was fortunate growing up to either have enough athletic ability or be on good enough teams that we had a lot of success at a lot of different things. I knew what winning and having a good time was about in athletics, but when I got in the car that night and finished that race, I remember literally running to the stands to tell my dad that racing is what I want to do. I didn't know how I was going to do it because I had no money. I had some good friend and good supporters, thank goodness, but I knew right then that's exactly what I wanted to do."

NOTING JARRETT'S NWC CAREER

* One of only four drivers in NWC history to win the Daytona 500 at least three times.

* One of only three Ford drivers to win the NWC championship since 1970.

* Owns 31 NWC wins, including 29 with Ford.

* Jarrett's 29 Ford victories ties him for 4th on the all-time manufacturer win list with David Pearson. Ned Jarrett is Ford's all-time leader with 43.

* Jarrett has reached Victory Lane with Taurus more than any other Ford driver. Since hitting the track in 1998, Taurus has won 69 NWC races with Jarrett posting 16 of those triumphs.

* Jarrett holds the longest active winning streak among NWC drivers, posting at least one victory in each of the last 11 seasons.

This Week in Ford Racing
March 11, 2003

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Ned Jarrett , Harry Gant , David Pearson